“Don’t eat salt”, “eat salt”, “don’t eat salt”…the debate continues. For years, conventional cardiologists have warned of the dangers of salt and put their patients on a low sodium diet or the DASH diet. Who would have thought this tiny grain would cause so much controversy? One doctor will give you one recommendation while another will give you a completely different take on it.
Let’s dive into the details; you may be surprised by what the research shows.
Why Has Salt Been Vilified?
Just as the efforts were brought forth to convince us a low fat diet was healthy, there is public effort in the United States to reduce sodium consumption and persuade us to avoid it at all costs, especially if you have a heart condition or high blood pressure. We all know the low fat diet has left Americans fat, sick and tired. What will a continued push for a reduction in salt do for our health?
An international study (INTERSALT) was conducted on salt intake and blood pressure. In short, the study concluded that salt increases blood pressure and lower salt diets such as that of the Yanomami Indians, result in a consistently low blood pressure.
However, another study shows quite the opposite. The Kuna of Panama ate very little salt and there was no presentation of high blood pressure within their community. As a matter of fact, this was one of the communities in which hypertension was described as rare. In this study, the researchers increased the Kuna’s salt intake to 2.6 tsp of salt and sometimes up to 6. Their indigenous diet remained consistent, with the only change being increased salt intake. There was no increase in blood pressure and the Kuna remained healthy and happy. However, the Kuna who had moved to nearby Panama City and who adopted a western lifestyle had similar increased hypertension rates to those who lived in the city and were no longer eating their indigenous diet. It appears there is more to blood pressure than the amount of salt you eat.
Could it be that simply living a healthy lifestyle and addressing factors such as stress, diet (following in our paleo ancestors’ steps ), sleep and sunshine combat any effects salt would normally have on our blood pressure?
A recent study indicates that a low salt diet may be detrimental, actually increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease and death. Sodium is an electrolyte that helps to regulate the rhythm and rate of the heart. It is a mineral that influences cells, hormones and other molecules within the cardiovascular system; it stands to reason we need it. However, for those with other conditions such as (but not limited to) heart failure or kidney disease, a low sodium diet may be necessary.
Is Low Sodium or Low Potassium the Culprit?
Could the answer to high blood pressure, when it comes to sodium and potassium, be to raise potassium? We need sodium to be in proper balance with potassium for optimal functioning: potassium intake should ideally be three times that of sodium. A recent study says that increasing potassium reduces blood pressure with no negative side effects and “higher potassium intake was associated with a 24% lower risk of stroke”. As it is, most of us simply do not get the recommended daily intake of potassium which stands at about 4700mg. Consider supplementing with Potassium Boost for additional potassium.
Negative Consequences of Salt Deficiency:
- Low sodium intake is associated with heart attacks, strokes and deaths compared to average intake.
- Low sodium can actually trigger hypertension and increase sleeping disorders.
- Low salt diet has been shown to increase insulin resistance
- Low sodium diet may modestly lower blood pressure but it has been shown to increase triglycerides, LDL and stress hormones. Is the trade off worth it? Likely not.
Salt makes food taste better, but do not forget that not all salt is created equally. We cannot expect to eat sodium in the form of processed foods and maintain a healthy lifestyle free from high blood pressure and AFib. Sprinkle the high quality sea salt such as Redmond Real Salt or Colima. These are clean brands that are tested for microplastics. It’s simple: eat at home, salt to taste and avoid food out!